Alasdair Gray sets the record straight at the Book Festival

Alasdair Gray sets the record straight at the Book Festival

Alasdair Gray made a welcome appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this afternoon to talk about his recent eclectic creative projects, the looming prospect of an independent Scotland and to set the record straight on the ‘anti-English’ debacle that erupted around him in December 2012.

In an event chaired by Book Festival director Nick Barley, Gray talked about Scotland’s great history of exporting its own citizens and how Scottish emigration has enriched the wider world, both in cultural resource and financial fortune.

Gray defined a Scot as ‘any adult living in Scotland able to vote’ and passionately articulated the value he places on those who seek to contribute to Scottish society. He also sought to clarify, ‘in case there is still any lingering doubt’, as Barley put it, that he was not anti-English in the slightest, but rather felt that those with the power to put people in the top creative jobs in the country – bodies such as Creative Scotland and the NTS – should look to the people with a deep understanding of the culture of the country in addition to excellence in their own artistic medium.

Inevitably the conversation moved from Scottishness to Scottish Independence and Gray used the opportunity to outline a few key things about his vision for a post-referendum Scotland declaring that his interest is in proportional representation, a country where people didn’t necessarily know how they would vote in every election, and for political dialogue driven by issues rather than ideology.

The discussion then turned to Gray’s latest project in progress – a new translation of Dante’s Inferno written in his inimitable poetically sweary Scots.

In the final stages of the conversation Gray’s status as a national institution was warmly commented upon by an astute audience member who observed that, if he were English, he’d have been knighted by now. Gray replied that he actually had been offered a knighthood by ‘Mr Brown’s administration’ but ‘turned it down when he ‘realised there was no money attached to it’ – a comment sure to go down in Book Festival history.

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